Office of Student Affairs

Students and Faculty in a School of Medicine Lab

Maintaining a respectful institution

Professionalism at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Scientific knowledge alone is not sufficient to the practice of a good physician; it also requires attributes that go beyond science itself and extend to humanism and compassion. The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine fosters the culture and environment in which professionalism can flourish. The modeling and expectation of professionalism has been integrated into every learning environment and can be found throughout the basic science and clinical years of medical training. The School of Medicine also encourages the development and internalization of professionalism through the role modeling of faculty, residents, preceptors and staff.


The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine promotes the following values to maintain our goal of respect by:

  • Displaying personal integrity and professionalism
  • Practicing fairness and understanding
  • Exhibiting respect for individual rights
  • Respecting diversity
  • Demonstrating harmony in the working and educational environment
  • Being accountable for one's actions
  • Developing and maintaining confidentiality and trust
  • Emphasizing communication and collaborative resolution of problems and conflicts

Commitment to maintaining a respectful environment

  • All individuals have important contributions to make toward the overall success of the School of Medicine's mission
  • An atmosphere where individuals at all levels value each other and treat each other with respect is a must to carry out the School of Medicine mission
  • All participants in the School of Medicine's educational program assume responsibility for enriching and nurturing an environment consisting of mutual respect, caring and compassionate health care
  • All individuals are allowed to discuss issues of concern in an open and honest manner, without fear of repercussion or retaliation from those above or below them in the university's hierarchy. However, this does not grant anybody the right to make untrue allegations, unduly inflammatory statements or personal attacks, or to harass, to violate confidentiality, or to engage in other conduct that violates the law or University policy
  • Harassment, bullying and any mistreatment is unacceptable at all levels

Code of professional conduct

The learning environment is designed to facilitate students' acquisition of knowledge and professional attributes required for effective, caring and compassionate health care. These characteristics are best fostered in the presence of mutual respect between teacher and learner. It is understood that the combination of intense situations, social and behavioral diversity of students, staff, faculty and residents will, at times, lead to alleged, perceived or real incidents of inappropriate behavior or mistreatment of individuals. This occurrence can disrupt the learning environment and the relationship between the teacher and the learner. The School of Medicine is committed to responding to these situations in a way to enhance future learning and correct behaviors which interfere with this environment.

Student Mistreatment Policy and Procedures

The School of Medicine holds all learners and faculty responsible for appropriate treatment and teacher-learner relationships.

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is committed to an environment of mutual respect. All members of the medical school community are expected to maintain a positive learning environment in which students, faculty, staff and residents treat each other with respect. Members of the community, including institutional leaders, will not tolerate harassment, intimidation, exploitation and/or abuse.

Purpose of policy

This policy is intended to define inappropriate conduct in relationships with students. It also describes the mechanism through which medical students can report violations without fear of retaliation. This policy ensures access to educational programs that prohibit student mistreatment. For the purposes of this policy, community is defined as all sites where University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine students receive training.

Promoting a Positive Learning Environment

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine provides ongoing educational and developmental opportunities to promote a positive learning environment respectful of all individuals. The policy will be included in both student and resident handbooks, and will be posted on the medical school website. The topic will be addressed annually throughout medical school.

  • Residents: The policy will be included in the resident handbook, and will be addressed at resident physician orientation sessions.
  • Faculty: The policy will be distributed electronically by the Dean to all faculty members, including adjunct and volunteer faculty. The message will include resources for identification and prevention of mistreatment and abuse, as well as instructions to report suspected actions and resources for resolution of alleged occurrences.
  • Nursing and Other Clinical/Support Staff: A letter will be sent from the Dean to the Chief Executive Officer at affiliated institutions requesting distribution of the policy to all staff interacting with medical school students. Resources will be available for presentations on the topic to various groups at the training sites.

A website is available for reference by students, residents, staff and faculty The policy will also be attached to affiliation agreements with all community partners.

Mistreatment of students may occur in many forms and can seriously impair the educational experience. Types of mistreatment include verbal, hierarchical/power, ethnic or cultural, physical, discrimination and sexual harassment.

Specific examples of mistreatment include but are not limited to:

  • Yelling at and/or verbally berating a student in public or private
  • Actions that can reasonably be interpreted as demeaning or humiliating (harsh criticism can be very appropriate in a life and death situation)
  • Assigning duties as a means of punishing students instead of for educational benefits
  • Unwarranted exclusion from learning opportunities
  • Threats to fail, assign a lower grade or give a poor evaluation for inappropriate reasons
  • Requesting that students complete personal chores or errands
  • Unwelcome sexual comments, jokes, innuendo or taunting remarks about a student's physical appearance, age, gender, ethnicity or culture, sexual orientation/identity or marital status
  • Intentional physical contact such as pushing, shoving, slapping, hitting, tripping, throwing objects or aggressive violation of personal space

Procedure for Resolution

Please note that all complaints of sexual harassment and/or discrimination will be referred to Office of Affirmative Action on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

Informal Resolution
  • Students are encouraged to first utilize any of the informal mechanisms listed below when possible.
    • Direct discussion between student and alleged offender
    • Discussion with course or clerkship coordinator, Associate Dean for Medical Education, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs or the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs
    • Discussion with either Assistant to the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs Jodi Shpargel (775) 682-8361.
    • Fully utilize the resident and faculty evaluation process.
Formal Resolution

When the informal mechanisms mentioned above do not lead to resolution of the incident or behavior, the following protocol will be followed:

If the incident involves an allegation of mistreatment by a faculty or staff member, the incident will be referred to the Administrative Code pursuant to Chapter 6 of the Nevada System of Higher Education Code


Retaliation against students reporting mistreatment is regarded as a form of mistreatment and will not be tolerated. Accusations that retaliation has occurred will be handled in the same manner as accusations concerning other forms of mistreatment.

Malicious Accusations

A complainant or witness found to have been dishonest or malicious in making the allegations or at any point during the investigation may be subject to disciplinary action.

Campus Resources

The following campus resources may be helpful sources of information or support in dealing with mistreatment or abuse issues:

  • Clerkship Coordinators
  • Office of Admissions and Student Affairs, School of Medicine
    Main: (775) 784-6063
    Jodi Shpargel - Reno (775) 682-8360
  • Office of Medical Education, School of Medicine, Reno
    Amy McFarland (775) 784-4605
  • Office of Academic Affairs, School of Medicine, Las Vegas
    Deborah Kuhls, M.D. (702) 671-6471
  • Office of Compliance, School of Medicine, Las Vegas
    J.A. Epperson (702) 916-3709
  • University Counseling Services, University of Nevada, Reno
    (775) 784-4648
  • Center for Student Cultural Diversity
    (775) 784-4936
  • Disability Resource Center
    (775) 784-6000
  • Office of Affirmative Action
    (775) 784-1547


Even prior to admission to medical school, prospective students are expected to be committed to caring for and serving others. Community service is an essential component of the prerequisites required for admission to the School of Medicine. Members of the Admission Executive Committee value the attributes of professionalism, and help insure that Nevada's students possess these qualities.

Honor Pledge and Ceremonies

Students and faculty recite the School's Honor Pledge at many of School of Medicine ceremonies and events. First year students sign the Pledge during the White Coat Ceremony. The signed pledge is displayed outside the lecture halls as a reminder to students and faculty of the institutional commitment to professionalism, integrity, and humanism. Students repeat the pledge at the Clinician's Ceremony marking their promotion to Years 3 and 4.


Professionalism is an important part of the academic expectations of medical students. Professionalism is a component in all Years 1 and 2 blocks. Students who engage in unprofessional behaviors must remediate to improve the behavior before a grade is awarded for the course. In Years 3 and 4, professionalism is an important part of all clinical evaluation forms. Professional behavior is an important part of student growth and development and is evaluated accordingly.

Honor Council

The Student Honor Council is charged with supporting students who have concerns about potential honor violations. The committee assists in evaluating honor violation concerns and bringing concerns forward to appropriate course coordinators, and/or the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs, and/or the Student Development Committee.

The Council may be approached individually or as a group, and its intended function is to support fellow classmates in coming forward to promote actions of the highest integrity and professionalism, and those that reflect honorably on students behaving in accordance with the School of Medicine's Honor Pledge.

Additional information can be found in the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Student Handbook.

Orientation - White Coat Ceremony

During the (Title: White Coat Ceremony) White Coat Ceremony, students are initiated into the profession even before immersing themselves in the curriculum. The Ceremony welcomes entering students to Nevada's medical school and helps establish the professional and psychological contract for the practice of medicine. The event emphasizes the importance of compassionate care for the patient as well as scientific proficiency.

Clinician's Ceremony - Transition to the Clinical Years

The Clinician's Ceremony is a celebration to mark the beginning of the clinical years of medical school, and serves to reaffirm students' commitment to humanism in the profession.

Peer Recognition of Professionalism

Beginning in 2002, Nevada's medical students created the Professionalism Awards as a way to recognize the professional attributes of their colleagues. The Professionalism Awards, presented at the Clinician's Ceremony, recognize outstanding students for their honesty and integrity, respect, altruism, duty, excellence and humility.

Excellence and Humanism in Teaching Awards for Residents

Outstanding residents are also featured during the Annual Clinician's Ceremony. The Excellence and Humanism in Teaching Award, sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, are awarded to residents who exemplify the qualities of exceptional teachers and role models.

Faculty, Resident, and Preceptor Role Models

Every day, in classrooms, laboratories, offices, clinics, and hospitals students are observing interpersonal behavior and ethical choices. We strive to make everyone aware of the important role they play in the education of truly excellent physicians.

Recognition of faculty members for humanistic qualities demonstrates that achievement cannot be measured only by one's income, the number of grants one receives, or by the number of publications one produces. The faculty members who nominate their colleagues display their belief in humanistic principles.

Community Service

Community service allows physicians to practice all of the attributes of professionalism, especially altruism and duty. The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (Title: Student Outreach Clinic) Student Outreach Clinic is an outstanding example of a community service of our students.


Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS)

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine is proud to be one of 45 medical schools selected to establish a (Title: Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society) Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS). The GHHS honors medical students, residents, role-model physician teachers and other exemplars recognized for excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to service. Nevada's GHHS chapter promotes and nurtures the values of humanism and professionalism within the field of medicine. The School of Medicine inducted its inaugural members into the GHHS chapter during the April 2005 Clinician's Ceremony.

Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awards

The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine has recognized humanistic students and physicians each year since 1999. Each year, graduating medical students nominate one colleague and one clinician to receive the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.